Jaqueline Fleming, left, Samantha Beaulie and Sharon Leal in "Woman… (Cook Allender )
First-time feature director Kat Coiro gives an oft-tread story a snappy new spin in the hip and enjoyable comedy "Life Happens."
After underdog Kim (an endearing Krysten Ritter) loses out for the last nearby condom to brasher roommate Deena (Kate Bosworth, also fine) during the BFF's simultaneous one-night stands, Kim ends up a devoted but ill-prepared mother of a baby boy.
With the child's me-first, surf star dad (Rhys Coiro, Kat's husband) decidedly absent, Kim must navigate the demands of single motherhood, her thankless job assisting a hellish canine patron (Kristen Johnston) and a budding romance with a near-divorced hunk (Geoff Stults) from whom she reluctantly hides her mommy status.
Although juggling these challenges while also trying to recalibrate her friendship with take-no-prisoners, self-help author Deena comprises most of the L.A.-set action, the film is rarely hijacked by its more familiar themes and sitcom potential. Instead, aided by a nimbly voluble script by Kat Coiro and Ritter, it emerges as an amusing kaleidoscope of contemporary urban angst and romantic aspirations.
As Kim and Deena's third roommate, a wannabe reality TV star — and proud virgin — Rachel Bilson provides sharp self-awareness. Justin Kirk goes for it as Deena's goofy, say-anything suitor, but Jason Biggs is underused as an antsy, married lawyer.
"Life Happens." MPAA rating: R for sexual content including references. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At AMC Loews Broadway 4, Santa Monica; AMC Burbank Town Center 8; AMC 30 at the Block, Orange.
On the trail of his lost self
In "The Hunter," Willem Dafoe plays a tracker-assassin sent out into the Australian wilderness to find and kill the fabled last of the Tasmanian tigers, an animal that may not even exist, given the job by a shadowy organization that wants the animal's DNA for possible future cloning.
It soon becomes apparent that what he is really searching for is his own soul, lost long ago.
Directed by Daniel Nettheim, the story is adapted by Alice Addison from the novel by Julia Leigh, who also wrote and directed the recent "Sleeping Beauty" with Emily Browning. Both stories share a sense of isolation and dislocation, as characters navigate uncertain terrain, spatially and emotionally.
Though there are small supporting turns in "The Hunter" by Frances O'Connor and Sam Neill, the film is really Dafoe's show, and he reminds once again why he is such a tremendous actor and also one so easy to underestimate and take for granted.
The film is at its best when Dafoe is simply going about the ritual tasks of his character's work, setting up a camp or laying traps in the wilderness. Dafoe conveys everything you need to know about this guy by the way he listens to opera on his iPod while cleaning his gun, or meticulously mapping out where his traps are laid. The small glimpses of family life he views along the way are the reminder of the humanity he has given up, and eventually works to get back.
"The Hunter." MPAA rating: R for language and brief violence. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.
Showing its limited hand
"All In: The Poker Movie" is for poker fans only. That said, based on the huge number of worldwide devotees of what's dubbed here "The Great American Game" (hey, what happened to baseball?), there's a potentially hefty audience for Douglas Tirola's energetic, if overly worshipful documentary.
Aided by eclectic archival footage, the film recalls the history of poker from its early gunslinger and riverboat-gambler days to its role as a welcome time-passer for World War II soldiers. Newfound urban — and suburban — popularity for the card game followed and continued to grow until its temporary wane around 1990.
Much of this loosey-goosey picture, however, tracks poker's later explosion via innovative televised competitions and online gaming sites. A great deal is also made of the 1998 poker-themed movie "Rounders" (star Matt Damon and co-writer Brian Koppelman weigh in extensively), which became a touchstone for the Texas Hold'em set.
A colorful barrage of poker industry folks — and other notable supporters — wax enthusiastic, with Chris Moneymaker (no joke), the Tennessee underdog who trounced the pros at 2003's World Series of Poker, profiled at length about his game-changing win.
But it's only when Tirola examines last year's federal crackdown on Internet poker that this jaunty love letter picks up some actual heft.
"All In: The Poker Movie." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.
The power of Chinese tradition